O.J. Mayo. Tyreke Evans. Gerald Wallace. JaVale McGee. Those are the four names that were cut from Team USA in a media teleconference earlier today. This afternoon, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski announced the 15-man roster that will make the trip to New York City once training commences on August 10.
Colangelo said he met with players this weekend and on Monday and Tuesday to reaffirm their total commitment to the team.
Coach K said the team will rely on the three-point shot, team speed and versatility, citing that there is no combination of guards he wont try: Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, Rose and Stephen Curry, Curry and Eric Gordon, etc.
“That means (Kevin) Durant and (Rudy) Gay will play a lot at the four,” Krzyzewski said. “Which isn’t bad because we had LeBron and Carmelo playing at the four all the time.”
Krzyzewski says that they may end up taking most, if not all of the guards. While he is concerned about the number of bigs on the roster, Coach K marveled at Chauncey Billups’ leadership capabilities, as well as his versatility to play on the wing, saying, “He’s one of the top point guards, but he can also play off the ball because he can shoot the ball.”
He also gushed about the growth of Rose: “I thought he had an absolutely incredible performance in the scrimmage on Saturday … and he really took it up a notch on defense.”
Krzyzewski believes the team will have to rely on “really good perimeter defense” and can see a “defensive spirit” among his guards to cause havoc. That will undoubtedly include a big contribution from Rajon Rondo, whose unconventional style could pay big dividends for the team. Coach K isn’t concerned about Rondo’s weak perimeter game and hopes to rely on the 24-year old’s big-game experience with the Boston Celtics.
“He won a championship unconventionally,” he said. “The thing that Rondo does is that he plays with a will to win. His will to win is something I truly admire and we need that.”
However, the team lost three power players very early in the process and Brook Lopez’ mono condition was unknown for a time in camp. Colangelo stressed that he will have to show significant improvement in order to make the final roster and that it may be a struggle at times inside.
Colangelo also said the team has an “openness” about taking an extra player or two with them to Europe. The 12-man final roster doesn’t need to be finalized until just before the tournament opens play. But he does admit that Krzyzewski and him already have a group of eight or nine players that will be on the team. The remaining six will fight it out for the last few spots.